This chapter draws from verses 4 through 16 in the Book of Jonah’s first chapter. The chapter’s plot generally follows the biblical account of this sea voyage, with two major differences:
• Jonah’s choice to step overboard instead of being thrown.
• The inclusion of Benjamin, the Dove’s “sidekick” in most of The Prophet and the Dove.
A novelist’s prerogative best explains why I made the first change. What else can I say? I wrote this three decades ago, and to be honest, I’ve forgotten my exact reasoning. But as I read it now, this direction underscores the ethical stand made by the ship’s good captain. Seeing how this seaman valued life, Jonah’s choice saves the captain from condemning himself for the rest of his life.
While the second point also marks an author’s right, this choice is biblically based, as readers will discover later. It also reflects a historic and biblical truth: it was rare to find people traveling alone in ancient times. The reasons for this emerge in future chapters.
Benjamin’s presence also reminds us of an important point raised in the introduction: just because the Bible does not mention something does not mean that “something” did not occur or exist. Consider this point at a basic level: the Bible rarely tells us what or when people eat each day, if or when they sleep, their small talk, etc. This does not suggest such things did not happen – obviously, they did. Omitting these details simply indicates the ancient writers saw no reason to include such elements in their texts. They took the same tactic with more important matters when that fit their storytelling needs.
Remember that as you read your Bible, or anything else.
This chapter shares dramatic examples of God taking an active role in daily life, all to make sure His will is done on this earth. Have you ever witnessed God acting this way? Such events may or may not involve dramatic, nature-defying miracles like those in the Book of Jonah. Do you think people always recognize such events when they happen? Does an understanding of God and His ways help or hinder us in identifying His actions?
Jonah understood his role in God’s great plan. Do you know yours? If so, how did you figure this out – from divine guidance, some direction of the Holy Spirit, prayer, reading God’s word, nature, instinct, or some other method? If you do not know, have you sought to learn this? Do you think God’s plan does not involve you? Or do you doubt God’s existence?
This chapter tells how some sailors on this “ship of Tarshish” drew random stones to discern truth or figure out what was going on around them. While this event is recorded in Jonah 1:7, other Old Testament verses also tell us how ancient Israelis sometimes used such stones, called lots, to determine the will of God. When our Lord seems silent, do you favor certain methods or devices to help figure out what you should do, or to interpret what you see, hear, or read?
The New Testament tells us Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, whether past, present, or future. This leads many Christ followers to emphasize His love and grace in all things – sometimes even over God’s concepts of law and justice. Such a view may make today’s believers skeptical of the strict Old Testament judgments issued against Nineveh, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Canaanites, and certain other cultures.
Do such concerns impact how you view the Bible? Have you seen examples of such strict judgments in today’s world?
Do you believe people must follow God’s will or law? If so, why do you think many people choose not to? Do you, like Jonah, believe you have the right to choose your own path in life? Does that mean you may disregard God’s will or law as you choose, or if you disagree with it?